Showing posts from 2009
“When I put the flower near your eyes, they twinkle again”
~8 year-old boy to his mother on her birthday. The mother was recovering from severe depression.

Where does the gaze fall? What do I see? What makes me twinkle inside? What repels me?

The eyes are the window to the soul, but so too are they the soul’s window onto the world.

I can perceive the world as harsh and grasping, like it could eat me up or skin me alive, and then feel compelled to turn away from it. But the world has no claws. Really, when I feel this way, it is aversion that has taken hold of me from the inside. When I recoil from phenomena, when I avert my gaze, in fact I turn my soul upon its own darkness. That is why introversion (or perhaps more aptly extro-aversion), in the extreme, can lead to depression.

I can perceive the world as the source of love and light and inspiration, but be prone to covet and consume what it proffers as “good”. Yet I cannot assimilate things which are not things, and grasping them…
Sure on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth,
Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandering far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

~Description of Elysium
James Agee

A lot of people I met with this week were struggling due to a current or impending separation from a loved one. Some were anxious to move on, others were grieving the absence of the familiar, still others were in limbo, numb and bored but unable to take the next step. Everyone expressed dissatisfaction with being in transition.

Change is hard. Even positive change. It reminds us that nothing remains the same and challenges our inflexible pattern-driven need for stability. Change cuts to the heart of the human condition: the thwarted desire for unity with something beyond… just this.

During transitions, we become aware of being like trapeze artists trying to …
Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A seven year-old boy and his mother came to me for help. The boy was being regularly suspended from school for disruptive behavior. His poor mother was at her wits’ end. “I am all out of punishments,” she said hopelessly, and the boy cried, “I have nothing to play with anymore”. He threw himself on the floor, sobbing. “You’ve lost heart,” I said, and asked the mother to think of some ways her son could earn back his toys.

The next week the boy said he had had a great week, and had earned back all of his toys. His mother shrugged and happily nodded. “So, what did you do differently?” I asked. “Nothing,” said the boy, “you encouraged me.”

The boy’s humility both touched and disturbed me. It touched me because he did not take credit for his success, but it disturbed me because his courage was experienced as originating outside of himself.

The tendency to assu…
Everyday objects define who we are by what we do,
And how we use them or refuse them is an act of freedom.
Knowing ourselves in this connection, heaven and earth meet
And the past, present and future come undone like a braid loosened by the fingers of presence.
“Desire is man’s very essence”
Benedictus de Spinoza (Ethics III, proposition 95)
Contemporary neuroscientific findings confirm both that we are hard-wired like other animals to attach to and care for other members of our species, and that the foundation of human empathy resides in early attachment relationships. Simply put, a child who is held and loved by a mother whose heart connects to his will grow a heart able to connect with others’. He will have also developed, within his brain, the capacity to know another as a real and vital complement to himself. His emotions will reflect this inner wealth and he will seek the world as a place to be nurtured and a place to nurture others.

These findings echo what Spinoza observed three hundred and fifty years ago in his famous Ethics: human beings are naturally inclined toward society and to becoming virtuous citizens[i].

It is not against self-interest, but through our very desire for attachment to others, that we cultivate the emotions that …
As awake compassion, you experience no separation. You know that the apparent division of experience between "I" and "the world" is a misperception and that even the subtlest sense of superiority is a further delusion.
Ken McLeod

Compassion arises in a context of non-attachment, when we have no expectations of reciprocity and it is not about me. As a therapist, as a mother, or even with a total stranger on the street, it is relatively easy to be compassionate in this way. I have all the power, and nothing is at stake for me personally[1].

But when I am in a friendship or love relationship, there is a me and there is a you. Necessarily, there is duality, because we are rooted in a personal connection. Naturally, these relationships activate attachment needs and all the other stuff that goes along with wanting to transcend separation in an embodied way. This is not to say that each person cannot be compassionately awake to the other; separation need not imply falling as…
What is it to fall in love?A delusion of attachment?The ego grasping like a babe from the womb, reaching out anxiously primed by the presence of the other beyond knowing, activating the life-sustaining startle and arch of human biology.The Moro reflex and will to live.A spiritual connection?The stirring of the immortal soul implanted in the body’s fertile ground that, upon finding the sun and rain in the face of another, dares to live as a tender shoot in the empirical world.Self-transcendence?The grace of compassion, the heart of hearts abiding in every man standing at the threshold of emptiness, our sacred inheritance when the space between subject and object collapses into nothing.And what then, of love?The reflex calls for maternal care.The connection dissolves into knowing.The transcendence cannot sustain itself and loses itself to find itself again and again, as simply nothing.
Qu’est-ce que tomber amoureux?
Un délire d’attachement? L’ego comme un nouveau-né sorti du ventre de sa …